Originally released in France back in 2018, the highly anticipated dystopian thriller Jessica Forever has finally come to Shudder! However its reception among audiences has been largely mixed, and while both arguments hold merit, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Mother To All
The film begins with a group of young men dressed in paramilitary gear, as they roam the suburbs of France, merely trying to survive. We learn that the streets are filled with these “orphan” boys and that for whatever reason, the government seems to be hunting them.
Coming to their rescue is a woman named Jessica, who takes them in, cares for them, and essentially acts as their maternal figure in every way. This does not stop most of them from falling completely in love with her, and being unable to function in her absence. Many of their relationships with her become codependent and downright unhealthy.
Jessica Forever is advertised as a science fiction thriller, however the film itself couldn’t be any further from this. Everything looks modern, and while it appears for a while that society is gone, and these streets are empty, we see characters going to a mall that’s still open and in operation.
We also hear that the orphans are being hunted, and we do see drones attack them from time to time, but we never know why or who’s behind it. We never follow up with any of it, and we’d be mistaken for not even realizing that this is meant to be the future.
It seems that the film merely wanted to get a group of young men with their maternal caretaker (and object of their affection) together, and couldn’t think of any other way to do it, than to contrive this “sci-fi” plot that doesn’t really go anywhere or make any sense.
Why None of it Matters
Ultimately, Jessica Forever was never really meant to be a thrilling look at how society crumbled. Rather it’s an emotional exploration of relationships, and self worth, all through a unique lens.
It’s beautifully shot, well-acted, and where the plot and premise fail completely, it makes up for with its compelling ideas. Jessica seems like a mother to the orphans, but they all fall for her romantically.
One could argue that this is a reflection of how many men choose a spouse that reminds them of their mother, or how many women feel that once they are in a relationship, they must take care of the man the same way his mother did.
It’s an interesting study in humanity, but the backlash seems somewhat justified, given the way the film was advertised. Shudder fans may be disappointed to find that this dystopian thriller is actually a bleak and romantic exercise in European surrealism. But if you’re able to go in with an open mind, it can be quite thought-provoking.